Cell phones can be activated remotely, loaded with software that takes control of the phone, records text messages, records calls, uses the inbuilt microphones as a listening device/bug, takes all GPS location data, address-book data, call logs, web-history, everything - current and historic - and transmits all, as and when required, to the hijacker when it can then also receive new instructions.
The cellular network transmitter/station local to a target phone can be replaced with a decoy transmitter that relays the signal on to the real network. The phone must give the transmitter a code to prove who it is to the network but the network does not have to give the phone any code to prove it is the real network. The phone can be told to transmit without encryption and the false cell transmitter can gain control of the phone in such a way, to download hijack software to take permanent covert control of the phone.
A 'virus' can be sent to the phone to similarly take control of it or the phone can be infected if it is in the possession of the hacker for a very short time. It is possible to hack a phone via it's wireless connection, blue-tooth or even via a text message.
This may be the reason why the 'authorities' do not want phone intercept intelligence used as evidence in court; because they do not want to plainly admit what can be done and what is being done. Perhaps this is why the police have been reluctant to further investigations into this matter or perhaps there is another layer between the journalists, the cash, the police and who is doing the actual covert spying on mobile phones.
An IMSI catcher or virtual base transceiver station (VBTS) is a device for identifying the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) of a nearby GSM mobile phone and intercepting its calls
The man-in-the-middle attack (often abbreviated MITM), bucket-brigade attack, or sometimes Janus attack, is a form of active eavesdropping in which the attacker makes independent connections with the victims and relays messages between them, making them believe that they are talking directly to each other over a private connection, when in fact the entire conversation is controlled by the attacker
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'Pinging': how phone hacking targets were located with help from the police NEW!